Spooky Season is in full swing! And with Halloween almost upon us, I’d like to take a turn into some thematically appropriate topics:
You’ve all heard of “Ghosting”, presumably.
You may have even read an article or two on the subject…
Exposing these toxic monsters and elaborating, in gruesome detail, their unspeakably heinous acts of social ineptitude.
You’ve probably read such articles because you have been “Ghosted” before—left to wonder why you were the victim of such callous behavior.
While I can’t speak for every ghost out there, as a chronic Ghoster myself, I think I might be able to provide some insight into the phenomenon. At least, I think I know where my habit stems from:
Crippling anxiety and fluctuating, but persistent, bouts of depression.
Personally, I maintain a steadfast inability to say “no” at all times. And, as such, I often find myself with either conflicting plans—or—social obligations that I simply am not in the right head space to handle.
Oh, I’ll think I can manage everything all at once well enough. I’ll fully believe in myself until the day of, right up until the very last minute before said plan is supposed to take place. Then, suddenly, I freeze. I become paralyzed. My brain sprints full force into panic mode. And I come up with ANY excuse to cancel.
Don’t’ worry, I’ll feel really bad about it, rest assured.
I’ll feel like I’m letting a friend, an acquaintance, or even a total stranger, down. Like I’m failing myself and everyone around me. But I can’t do anything about it. The fear is so much more potent than my desire to fulfill this commitment, to make others happy, to enjoy myself, to experience a social connection.
You see, I’m a runner. Not really, not physically. I’m not athletic. Just socially and emotionally.
The first time around, this flaky behavior is received pretty well. People can be unreasonably understanding sometimes.
“Oh, you have a migraine? I’m so sorry dude, that sucks! Feel better!”
Ironically, I do actually suffer from chronic migraines, they just don’t always happen to occur when I say they do.
(Side Bar: As a child, I would lie about having headaches as an excuse to get out of going to church. The fact that I have them for real as an adult is clearly an act of divine retribution).
But, inevitably, after the 2nd or 3rd or 4th bail, people start to get a little miffed. At which point, they stop reaching out to me, stop inviting me to do things altogether. Which is entirely understandable.
Is that what I secretly wanted though? This whole time?? To be left entirely alone???
Ulterior motives and subconscious desires aside, the end result is that we grow distant…the opportunity for any kind of relationship to blossom is lost.
And that’s just one kind of Ghosting.
Ghouls can take on many forms. One of these manifestations, however, I find a bit more justifiable: The Ghosting of a Creep. It looks something like this: First, someone (often a man, in my experience) confuses basic human kindness and civility for flirting and intimacy. Next, this person simply will not leave you alone. They are either incapable of taking a hint, or they are flat out refusing to acknowledge your indirect attempts to back out of the situation. Finally, said person takes a conversation too far, letting it drift without fail in an uncomfortable direction— usually by way of unsolicited sexual advances or topics of conversation. Often, this happens repeatedly and with no sign of ceasing anytime in the near future. I have absolutely NO qualms about ignoring this kind of person forever. In such a scenario, Ghosting is more or less a necessary act of self-defense. One of the only methods of protection available to you when you are terrified of asserting your own boundaries.
Still, there is yet another ghastly spawn of Ghosting: an apparition that manifests when you are faced with the looming threat of real emotional intimacy and you begin to feel overwhelmed.
I frequently find myself playing the role of counselor for anyone who happens to float into my life. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, people seem to be very comfortable opening up to me, telling me their life stories, revealing their past traumas and their current dramas. I genuinely like to listen. I admire this ability to trust other people, to be so open. And I hate small talk, so I relish the opportunity to have a deeper conversation, to forge some meaningful connection; so long as it is an ephemeral, fleeting moment, a onetime occurrence—that’s my caveat.
But, when someone is that comfortable with showing their soul to you, this thing tends to happen where they then want to become closer friends. Obviously, if you’re going to take the risk of letting someone in like that, you kind of hope that they’ll want to stick around, that they’ll feel the same depth of connection and the desire to maintain it. But I have vulnerability issues. I am mortally afraid of showing anyone even a glimpse of my true self—naked and maskless.
And, if I’m being entirely honest, I already have about as many close friends as I can possibly handle. I give everything to a relationship. And you can only do that with so many people before you start to become spread too thin. As a result, I’m kind of picky about who I let into my life in a permanent capacity. And I don’t know how to tell people that without sounding like a complete dick.
I don’t want to hurt anyone.
So, I just panic instead. I stop responding. I Ghost.
And I know this is a truly atrocious thing to do. It doesn’t stop at hurting other people, either. No. At its core, it is a self destructive tendency.
But once you start Ghosting, it’s really fucking hard to stop. How do you recover from that?
I mean, let’s say even just two whole weeks pass in which you’ve been totally ignoring someone…What the fuck can you possibly say after such a length of time that will explain this kind of behavior in a satisfactory way?
“Sorry, I’m mentally unstable and I just fucking freaked out at the thought of developing a deep and lasting connection with another human being”.
I might be wrong, but I doubt that will go over well.
I’ve always been a Ghost, and I don’t really know what to do about it or how to stop myself…
I’m not trying to make excuses; I recognize that this is (in most cases) unacceptable and alienating behavior.
I would like to alter my habits and become a better, more well-adjusted person, but I don’t really see that happening any time soon. I am nothing if not a work in progress.
So, in lieu of any real change, I’d like to apologize to almost everyone I’ve ever ghosted—unless you were a creep, then fuck you—but to everyone else…
It’s not you.
I’m just a human who is often overwhelmed by the human experience.